John Druse “Bud” Hawk

Posted on Nov 1, 2016

john-druse-bud-hawk

On August 20, 1944, John D. “Bud” Hawk (1924-2013) received the Medal of Honor for heroic actions during World War II. Sergeant Hawk, Company E, 359th Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, manning a machine gun, held back encircled German forces attempting a breakout. Artillery fire destroyed Sergeant Hawk’s machine gun. He then directed the assembly of a replacement machine gun from parts. Despite wounds he directed anti-tank fire that stopped the German tank advance. Following the war, John Hawk graduated from the University of Washington and erved for 31 years as an educator.

From High School to War

John Druse “Bud” Hawk was born in San Francisco, California, and grew up in the Rollingbay area of Bainbridge Island, Washington. Two weeks after his 1943 Bainbridge High School graduation, he enlisted in the Army. In August 1944, his unit, Company E, 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, was advancing across France.

By August 20, a large German force had been encircled and almost trapped in the Falaise Pocket. However, there was a gap that allowed many to slip away. Allied forces were moved into the area to close the gap and prevent further escape. Sergeant Hawk’s unit was committed to a sector near Chambois, France, and instructed to close the opening and capture a large force of the German Seventh Army. The 359th Infantry Regiment joined with Canadian forces to seal the trap.

Sergeant Hawk manned a light machine gun. During an enemy counterattack his position was menaced by a strong force of tanks and infantry. His machine-gun fire forced the enemy infantry to pull back. During the counterattack an artillery shell knocked out his machine gun and wounded him in the right thigh. With a bazooka, Sergeant Hawk and another soldier attacked the tanks and forced them to retreat. Sergeant Hawk then reorganized two machine-gun squads and assembled a machine gun from two damaged guns.

While holding off the enemy, an American tank destroyer hidden in an orchard behind the forward position came forward. Due to the terrain, the tank destroyer crew could not see the German tanks, nor could the enemy tanks see it. Sergeant Hawk went up forward to direct the tank destroyer fire. He was in the open and came under fire as he directed the American tank destroyer fire. He had to run back and forth from his forward position to the tank destroyer to deliver fire direction since in the noise of battle the crew could not hear his commands. Despite a leg wound Sergeant Hawk continued his forward observation fire control. His efforts and that of the tank destroyer stopped the three enemy tanks. With the German breakout halted, more than 500 prisoners were captured.

The 359th remained in battle. By Thanksgiving 1944 the Company E light-machine-gun squad was at a roadblock near Metz, France. As part of the Third Army the squad was on the way to the Siegfried Line and into Germany. Thanksgiving Day was quiet, so they received a traditional dinner with turkey, dressing, and pie. Many of the troops, having lived on field rations for some time, became sick from the change in diet.

The 359th continued its movement to Germany. By the end of the war Sergeant Hawk had been wounded four times, earning four Purple Hearts.

 

President Harry S. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Sgt. John D. Hawk in Olympia, Wash., in June 1945. Gov. Mon Wallgren is at right. (Courtesy of Harry S. Truman Library)

Medal of Honor

In June 1945, Sergeant Hawk came home on a 30-day leave. He stayed at his father’s home in Bremerton and enjoyed sleeping in, home-cooked meals, and hunting. On June 8, he learned he would receive the Medal of Honor in an extraordinary way. President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) came out to the West Coast and presented the Medal of Honor to Sergeant “Bud” Hawk.

The ceremony took place on the Washington State Capitol steps in Olympia. President Truman, a World War I veteran, related that Sergeant Hawk was largely responsible for the capture of 500 German troops. The President said that he “would rather have this medal than any other which can come to men” (“Sergt. Hawk Praised For Battle Deed”).

The Years as Educator

On July 20, 1945, in the office of Major General Joseph D. Patch (1885-1966), Sergeant Hawk received his discharge. Sergeant Hawk decided to utilize his veteran’s educational benefits to attend college. He attended Bremerton’s Olympic Junior College (now Olympic College) and the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in biology. In 1952 Bud Hawk became a 5th and 6th grade teacher at Tracyton Elementary School, Bremerton. Five years later he transferred to Bremerton’s Brownsville Elementary and later became its principal. When a new school was to be built, “Bud” Hawk served on the planning team. The school, named Woodlands Elementary, was completed, and he became its first principal.

The former Sergeant “Bud” Hawk would honor America’s military his entire life. He served on Bremerton committees that supported the military and attended numerous events to represent the nation as a Medal of Honor recipient.

Tragedy and Service

In 1956, he was scheduled to fly to France in July to help dedicate American military cemeteries. Sadly, on May 11, his 6-year-old son, David Hawk, was struck by an automobile and killed. Bud Hawk considered his overseas attendance a duty, but did not want to leave his wife at home grieving alone. The Bremerton community stepped in and purchased a ticket for her so they both could travel.

John “Bud” Hawk and other Medal of Honor recipients represented veterans at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. On March 22, 1963, he attended ceremonies at Fort Lewis commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Medal of Honor. Washington’s nine living Medal of Honor recipients were honored at the ceremony, though only six were healthy enough to attend. During the event Hawk visited with Fort Lewis commander Major General Frederick Zierath (1910-1999) and offered his support to the troops. In May that year Hawk attended a reception for Medal of Honor recipients at the White House given by President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963).

Teacher, Principal, Soldier

John Hawk served 31 years in the Central Kitsap School District as a teacher and principal. On April 5, 2008, he received the Medal of Honor flag on the State Capitol steps where he had received his medal years earlier. Hawk said that what he did was not exceptional; he was doing what other soldiers did.

On February 26, 2010, the U.S. Post Office in Rollingbay on Bainbridge Island was named in his honor. The post office is located near where he grew up. A plaque in the post office honors Sergeant Hawk and an Army Education Center at Lewis North of Joint Base Lewis-McChord is named in his honor.

He died on November 4, 2013 at the age of 89. Jackson Park Elementary in Bremerton was renamed John D. “Bud” Hawk Elementary in his honor.